Flight of the Phoenix
Flight of the Phoenix
At 60, when scientist Sandya Narayanswami got her flying license, it was a matter of perseverance, and desire, much like her life. She shares her journey with Shraddha Kamdar
Shraddha Kamdar

Born in Mumbai, raised in London, and now working in California, 64-year-old Sandya Narayanswami’s life is the stuff inspiring stories are made of. Charting her own academic path in the ’60s and ’70s in Southall, she was one the first women in her community to pursue a career in science. That, along with her teen-dream of winning the Nobel didn’t come easy, since it took some convincing for her parents to let her chart the path. Nurturing dreams of acquiring a university education, she made her parents promise they wouldn’t look for a groom for her, ‘arranged marriage’-style until she finished. She admits to having extended that education indefinitely. A university degree, a PhD, and two post doctorates later, she found herself at California Institute of Technology as director of Corporate & Foundation Relations, where she discovered the flying club. She lapped up the opportunity and got her flying license at the age of 60. Today, along with running her own company, Narayanswami Consulting, she is an active member and board chair of the General Aviation Awards (GAA), in the US. Over to the dynamic lady.

Tell us about your background, considering that your choice of education and career is unique.

I was born in Mumbai in 1955, and my parents moved to the UK from Palghat, Kerala when I was three months old. Early on, to beat the arranged marriage situation, I made my plan to work hard and go to university. I was inspired by Marie Curie and wanted to be a scientist. However, the grammar school in London was far from what I had expected. I experienced a great deal of racism, and was excluded from everything as a teenager. In some ways that made me stronger.

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March 24, 2020